Setting Group Norms for Meetings

RulesIn our weekly Meetings 411 feature, the Cvent Event blog has reviewed best practices for meetings from a number of vantage points. It isn't enough to be familiar with best practices. It is also important to establish an agreed upon set of group norms to ensure that everyone is on the same page and meetings run smoothly.

With a common understanding of expectations, groups can avoid many of the common pitfalls that lead to conflicts.To establish group norms, follow these simple steps.

  1. Identify the top time wasters during your meetings.
  2. Identify the bad habits that have been derailing meetings.
  3. For each area that is problematic, pinpoint specific solutions and best practices.
  4. Assign a small group to word-smith them into a set of group norms.
  5. Distribute a draft for feedback before the next meeting and give everyone a chance to review them and suggest improvements.
  6. Sign off on them at the next meeting.
  7. Review them at the start of each meeting until they are entrenched. After that, post them in the meeting room.

What are some of the areas that should be incorporated into group norms?

  • Agenda: Have an agenda and a clear process for adding agenda items. Keep agendas on track.

    The agenda is your meeting roadmap yet it is surprising how many meetings don't have agendas. As the straw man says in the Wizard of Oz "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there."
  • Punctuality: Agree to start and end your meetings on time.
  • Mobile Devices: Have a clear agreement on when and how to use mobile phones and other devices.

    There is nothing more disruptive than constant texting or popping in and out of meetings to take phone calls. If mobile devices are not needed for a specific purpose during a meeting, they should be parked until needed.

    For large meetings, conferences, and trade shows, reserve a few tables with power outlets for tweeters and bloggers.
  • Engagement:  Important group norm include agreeing that only one person should speak at a time and giving thinking time and more airtime to the minority point of view to avoid Groupthink.
  • Conflict Resolution: Identify a clear process for managing differences and resolving conflicts.
  • Decision Making:Include a clear process for making decisions including strategies to ensure that attendees now about important decisions coming up and a channel for having input if they are going to be absent. Here are some decision making tools.
  • Notes and Minutes: Even for informal meetings, agree on how to record important decisions, action items, who is responsible for completing each action item, and target completion dates.
  • Confidentiality: This is extremely important especially for meetings at which sensitive information is discussed.

This PDF document, while geared to schools and associations, has extremely helpful tips for developing group norms and some suggested layouts for group norms.

To learn more, read Robert's Rules of Order Refresher for Formal Meetings.

Photo Credit: One Way Stop

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